Look, we all LOVE our characters. We do. I love my characters anyways. They are near and dear to my heart.
So why am I such a sadistic bastard to them?
BECAUSE WITHOUT CONFLICT YOU HAVE NO STORY.
Let me repeat that.
WITHOUT CONFLICT YOU HAVE NO STORY.
If you want your characters to be all happy and live in worlds of wine and roses, then by all means, write that. Your mom would love to read it. But if you want to write a story that real people in the real world want to read and (gasp!) pay for the privilege then you must put your character through HELL.
It is your job to make their literary lives hell.
I just finished writing a scene where my main character is fighting for his life…..with a head injury. He cannot think straight, his vision goes in and out, pain is searing his brain with every movement, and all he wants is to lay down and rest. But if he does then he is dead meat. This brain injury will stay with him. and will affect everything that happens to him for the rest of the book. How far in does this injury occur you ask? About 20,000 words in.
He has to survive the next 60,000+ words with this injury.
Everybody on his team is injured. Everybody. One is dead in the trunk of his car.
It’s a hard life being one of my characters. But I am with Joss Whedon on this. Remember when he killed Wash in Serenity so callously? (WASH!!!!!!!!!!!! NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Just the scene previous he had Mal give this big rousing speech about how some of them may not make it through the fight. In an interview Joss said that he HAD to kill Wash after that. If he hadn’t then the stakes meant nothing.
I mean, he wasn’t trying to make Star Trek. Nobody important dies on that show. Nobody. That is why they have redshirts. But you don’t give a rat’s ass about a redshirt now do you? But I’ll be damned if there aren’t STILL people cursing Joss for killing Wash and that was like forty years ago.
So if you want your reader to care you have to kick the hell out of your characters. And kill some of them occasionally, fer crying out loud, kill some good guys sometimes.
Genre has consequences and if you aren’t willing to man up then save your breath sister.